East York to get its own Hall of Fame

Organization will honour past and present residents of community

Justin Van Dette talks about the East York Hall of Fame at a meeting of the  Kiwanis Club on Feb. 15.  (ZIAULHAQ ZARAWAR/TORONTO OBSERVER)

Long-time East York activist Justin Van Dette believes that an East York Hall of Fame will help celebrate community leaders.

Van Dette, also a member of the Kiwanis Club of East York, offered his vision of the hall of fame at a dinner meeting of the KCEY at Thorncliffe Park on Feb. 15.

“I expect the East York Hall of Fame to be an organization to recognize those individuals (who) have a special relationship with our community,” Van Dette said.

He added that such recognition would enrich the history of East York for future generations by honouring past and present residents who have excelled in sports, politics, media and entertainment, for example.

“Some of the most prominent and well-recognized East Yorkers have nothing named after them in our community,” he said.

Van Dette said he has informed Mayor John Tory and Toronto City Council that he envisions a hall of fame wall on the parkland outside the East York Civic Centre.

“It is the hub of our community,” Van Dette said.

Kiwanis Club of East York member and past-president Ron Derbyshire said the hall is a worthwhile project and added that too many famous East Yorkers have been pushed aside and forgotten about.

“It would be great for people to walk by the wall at the East York Civic Centre and recognize the fact these people were born, raised and worked in the East York,” Derbyshire said.

To be nominated for the EYHF, Van Dette said a candidate must have been born or have lived, been educated, played sports, worked or volunteered within the former borough of East York’s boundaries.

Van Dette said he hopes to have five nominees each year, including two inductions to the hall of fame, one recipient of the East York Bulldog award and two young people — one male and one female.

“We will be having a news conference with the premier next month to announce the official opening of nominations,” Van Dette said.

He said the induction ceremony would be held just before the summer at the East York Civic Centre.

Van Dette believes three of East York’s former mayors – True Davidson, Willis Blair and Alan Redway – should be considered when the nominations begin, and later mayors David Johnson and Michael Prue as well.

Tracy Harding, president of the Kiwanis Club East York , and Justin Van Dette discussed the East York Hall of Fame at a recent meeting of the club. (ZIAULHAQ ZARAWAR/TORONTO OBSERVER)

Van Dette formed and found the East York Hall of Fame in November of 2015. He said the EYHF has committee representatives from various grassroots organizations, including the Thorncliffe Park Neighbourhood community, the Danforth-Donlands community and church groups.

“(The committee) is a very clear reflection of our diversity,” he said.

Michael Young, the former president of KCEY, endorses Van Dette’s plan. He applauded the existence of the Agnes Macphail Award as recognizing East York residents who are still living, but said those from the past are not included.

“It fits in very nicely with the sensibility of East York,” Young said.